Category Archives: civil liberties

Another one about the AG battle

Admittedly, I’m really entertained by the idea of Pat Robertson endorsing Rudy Giuliani, but that’ll have to wait until later. For now my main concern is the coming Senate vote on Michael Mukasey. As I’ve mentioned previously, Mukasey was approved by the Judiciary Committee and sent on to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. He’s certainly got enough votes to pass, so the only chance of preventing his confirmation would be a filibuster, which would only require 40 votes. And even that might be a challenge.

I realize I’ve been harping on this one, and I think it’s fair that I explain why. Now, y’all may remember this chap, who has a pretty damn good claim on the title of Worst Attorney General Ever:

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During Gonzales’s tenure as AG, it appears that the Justice Department was transformed into a wing of the Republican political machine, and ultimately collapsed in a sorry wreck of scandal and resignations. Thus, the initial reaction of the Senate to Judge Mukasey was “he can’t possibly be worse than the last guy, let’s get him in there.” This opinion was only furthered by the perception that Mukasey had stood up to the Bush Administration in the Padilla case.
Of course, as is ever the case in these things, a quick look under the surface revealed multiple causes for alarm. Now, as clear as it was (and still is) that Mukasey would not go in for the sort of partisan shenanigans that were the hallmark of the Gonzales DoJ, his record on executive authority is less than reassuring. For example, in that Padilla ruling, despite its assertion that Jose Padilla had the right to legal counsel, Mukasey made it clear that he was comfortable with the President exercising a power to declare American citizens “enemy combatants,” and arrest them without charge.

Allow me to pause a moment to explain that one. Under Anglo-American law dating back to the Magna Carta (and arguably earlier), the government can not arrest you without charging you with a crime, then granting you access to a court of law in which you can defend yourself. For a judge to concede that an executive has an inherent authority to abrogate those rights by determining that you are an “enemy combatant” (a determination which is not subject to review by anyone but the executive) is to undermine one of the founding principles of our government. So, yeah, maybe a problem in the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

The shit really hit the fan, though, when the Judiciary Committee began to question Mukasey on the use by American intelligence agents of “waterboarding,” which the press refers to as a “controversial procedure,” and the rest of the world refers to as torture. (For an excellent take on the press’s absurd attempts to present a “debate” about the merits of torture, check out this article.) Despite constant questioning, Mukasey refused to state that he thought the practice was illegal. This caused most of the Democrats on the Committee to declare their opposition to his nomination, and suddenly things were looking up.
However, apparently Mukasey met privately with Chuck Schumer and assured him that, should the Congress pass a law explicitly banning waterboarding, he would enforce said law. Now, there are many proper reactions to such an assurance, ranging in eloquence from Senator Kennedy’s to “Whoop-de-friggin-do, we already have about a half-dozen laws against waterboarding, why don’t you enforce those?” But Schumer’s was to vote for him.

So now, short a filibuster, we’ll have an Attorney General who, while neither a partisan flack nor a religious fanatic obsessed with the breasts of Justice, will not stand in the way of a President who claims the power to imprison citizens at will, ignore Congressional statute, and torture people. Indeed, he may even actively abet such claims. This is a problem. To explain why this is a problem, I’ll turn to Senator Lindsey Graham, who (despite his support for Mukasey’s nomination) gave one of the more eloquent statements I’ve heard on these matters during the Judiciary Committee’s vote Tuesday:

The world is not short of people and countries who will waterboard you. There’s not a shortage of people who will cut your heads off in the name of religion. There is a shortage of people who believe in justice, not vengeance.

Huge Thursday on the Hill

Holy hell, was it a big day in D.C. All manner of stuff flying around on Capitol Hill. We’ll start with the bad news, from the House.

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The House of Representatives held a vote to override the President’s veto of the S-CHIP expansion bill. As y’all remember from 8th-grade civics, you need 2/3 of Congress to vote “Yea” in order to pass a bill over the veto. They fell 13 votes short. To reiterate what I mentioned in an earlier post on this bill, this means that almost 4 million children will continue to lack basic healthcare. 156 members of the United States House of Representatives, in collaboration with the President, have decided that if your parents have the audacity to make enough money to pay rent and buy groceries, but not enough to buy comprehensive private health insurance, then you don’t deserve access to medical care. “No asthma meds, vaccinations, chemo, or routine checkups for you, little Billy. Your parents make a whopping $25,000 a year.”

Best part of the whole thing may have been this sign, unveiled by Rep. Steve King (R-IA):

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I don’t know what to do with this, really, other than to say come on, Iowa. You can do better than this schmuck. (For those wondering, no, S-CHIP doesn’t cover illegal immigrants.)
Now we move across the Rotunda to the Senate. As I mentioned earlier in the week, they’ve been debating a move which would grant retroactive immunity from prosecution to telecom companies that cooperated with the Administration in wiretapping the phones of millions of American citizens. Well, they agreed to the damn thing. Sure, they violated the privacy rights of millions, but that doesn’t mean they ought to be punished in any way for it, right? And that’s where it stood this morning, with the Senate fully prepared to declare that the 4th Amendment is negotiable if you really think you’re doing the right thing.

Until this dude stepped up:

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That’s Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT). Upon hearing that the Senate Democratic leadership had caved on the telecom immunity bill, he announced that he would place a hold upon the bill. A hold, in Senate rules, is a method by which any Senator may prevent a bill from coming to a vote. It tends to be used on nominations and similar action. What Dodd is effectively saying to the Senate is “No, guys, I don’t care how many of you want to do this, I won’t let you give away the 4th Amendment.” It’s an astonishingly courageous act, maybe the ballsiest thing I’ve ever seen a politician do. To stand against 99 colleagues, in the face of constant GOP rhetoric claiming that enforcing our nation’s most basic law is a luxury that will get Americans killed? I’m new here, so I don’t know the rules on this, but is there any way to confer honorary ninja status? Because the good Senator’s certainly worthy in my eyes right now.

That’s it for tonight. There’ll certainly be more tomorrow, there’s always something going on in the world of politricks.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.”

So right now Congress is fighting over whether to grant big telecom companies retroactive immunity to prosecution for having violated the privacy rights of millions of customers by allowing the government to spy on them. (Big campaign contributors and fear of terrorism vs. Constitutional principle… let’s see, who do we think will win that one?)

The newest salvo in the ongoing fight over whether the government should have the power to eavesdrop on anyone without a warrant comes to you below, from Fox News:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQgQRL4lXzA[/youtube]

Few things. First, here’s how FISA works, briefly. There are, as makes sense, three basic types of communication: domestic-domestic, which is covered by the 4th Amendment; foreign-foreign, which isn’t; and domestic-foreign, which is what FISA addresses. Effectively, it says that if the NSA, CIA, or any other intelligence-gathering service wishes to listen to calls, read e-mails, etc., that are going between someone inside the U.S. and someone outside the U.S., they need to obtain a warrant first. That’s it.

Now, there was a funky loophole in the law which became prominent as communications tech became more advanced. Namely, what happens if someone in Syria is talking to someone in Pakistan, but the call is routed through Michigan? It’s clearly a foreign-to-foreign call, but it’s also kind of domestic. So the law was amended recently to close that loophole. This makes sense, and despite what’s claimed toward the end of the clip, neither Silvestre Reyes nor any other prominent Democrats opposed the change. (Yes, Fox News, lying to its viewers, I too nearly died of shock.)

Anyway, I’ve a feeling we’re going to hear the tale of these dead soldiers a whole lot in the coming days, and a few things need to be clear. First, there’s a provision in FISA for emergencies. Since foreign intelligence gathering is, on occasion, time-sensitive, the government’s allowed to engage in surveillance without a warrant for up to 72 hours, as long as they then apply for one and can prove that there was no time to apply normally. “Three of our guys were just kidnapped and we need to find out where they are” would seem to qualify as an emergency. In fact, it did, the thing that held up the surveillance was that no one could find a high-ranking official at the Justice Dept. to sign off on it (what with half of them resigning either in protest or disgrace), not that “the law was cumbersome,” as is claimed in the clip.

Secondly, as I said earlier, the foreign-to-foreign-but-kinda-domestic loophole which was ever so slightly problematic in this situation (and I can’t stress this enough) has been fixed already. Not only that, but with overwhelming support from both parties, because it made sense to do so. So why would the GOP bring up this story now?

For the same reason they put a provision that hurt unions in the bill establishing the Homeland Security Department, waited until just before the ’02 election to vote on Iraq, and forced a vote on expanded surveillance powers just before Congress went on recess this summer. For the same reason that Saxby Chambliss put Max Cleland next to bin Laden, and Rudy Guiliani is running for President of 9/11. Because no matter how low their approval ratings may be, how outrageous the powers they’re asking for are, they’ve figured out that they can get whatever they want as long as they scare everyone into thinking that Americans will die if they don’t get their way.

Now they’re gearing up to do it again, and they’ll keep doing it. Unless. Unless we realize that fear makes us stupid, and remember that unwise decisions will only create more things that go bump in the night. We’ve done the fear thing for a few years now. Let’s give wisdom a shot, shall we?

A proud day for the Law

I should have posted on this a few days back, but a few days back I wasn’t writing here yet, so I hope y’all can excuse the delay.

supreme court

Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court got handed the case of Khaled al-Masri, a German citizen who was suing the Administration. Now, why would a German citizen feel the need to sue the American government? Glad you asked. Turns out that in 2003, he was snatched by American agents, flown to a prison in Afghanistan, and held for a year as they interrogated him about his connections to terrorists. Turned out, of course, that he had none, and that our guys had been using their “enhanced interrogation techniques” (which totally aren’t torture, because only bad guys torture people, and we’re the good guys!) on an innocent man. Strangely enough, he’s a trifle annoyed about the situation, and decided to sue.

The case got all the way to the Supremes, who promptly decided that they wouldn’t bother to even hear the case, deferring to the Bush Administration’s claim that a public trial would expose “state secrets.” Two things came quickly to mind.

First, as far as “secrets” go… Presumably the secrets in question are the interrogation methods that were used on al-Masri, and the Administration’s claim is that if they’re revealed, terrorists will be able to prepare for them, thus thwarting our noble intelligence agents. Now, diligent journalism from all over the globe has already uncovered evidence of temperature manipulation, beatings, stress positions, sleep deprivation, religious and sexual degradation, and waterboarding. So the obvious question comes to mind: if this is already public, what sort of stuff are they doing that they think hasn’t been revealed? The mind simply boggles.

Second (and this is something I’d only just learned recently), the “state secrets” privilege in this country is based on a Supreme Court case from 1953. The families of several men who died in the crash of a test bomber sued to gain access to the accident report, in hopes of finding out what had happened to their loved ones. The government refused, claiming that releasing the report would expose important military secrets. It being the early years of the Cold War, the Court deferred to this claim and ruled against the families. Several years ago, the documents in question became public, and it turns out that there was nothing in them that could reasonably qualify as a legitimate military secret. It was the classic example of a government hiding a screwup behind the “Classified” stamp.

What this all means is pretty straightforward. The Court, by refusing to hear the case, has tacitly admitted that the government can kidnap a person, hold them against their will, subject them to treatment that any rational individual would consider torture, all without accusing them of a crime or allowing them access to counsel. And, if this person should by some miracle manage to exercise their basic rights and sue for redress, the government can simply conjure the all-purpose defense of “national security secrets” and get away with it.

magna carta

That’s the Magna Carta, the one worthwhile thing King John (yeah, the guy Robin Hood stole from) ever did. Among other things, it set down on paper the right of a citizen not to be arrested or imprisoned “except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” That was almost 800 years ago.

Good thing the Bush Administration is around to protect us from such quaint medieval notions. And even better that the pesky courts didn’t try to interfere. Because if they had, the terrorists would win, and we all know that the terrorists would take our freedom away.

Ecstasy Rising

[googlevideo]http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1564288654365150131&q=documentary+duration%3Along&total=333&start=30&num=10&so=3&type=search&plindex=4[/googlevideo]

Rapper I Self Devine said in the song Illegal Busyness “there’s no war on drugs/a war on us/a war to win love.”

No statement is made more apparent than by the U.S. government’s treatment of drug policy for the last few decades. August marks the beginning of the politricks.mnp Drugs Special Report.

For now, take a look at this Peter Jennings documentary about ecstasy. You might be surprised what you learn.

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The problems with drugs and the war on drugs are twofold, as illustrated by this report. On the one hand, the government is creating a trust deficit by overstating the harmful qualities of certain substances. On the other hand, by challenging the government’s claims there is also a false sense of security amongst young people that is manifested in pop culture acceptance and celebration of the drug.

Before August, you’ll get a REACH Special Report: One Month and Counting, as well as a little info on REAL ID. Stay tuned!

Bush Paves the Way for Martial Law

In October 2006, Bush signed into law the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007. Quietly slipped into the law at the last minute, at the request of the Bush administration, were sections changing important legal principles, dating back 200 years, which limit the U.S. government’s ability to use the military to intervene in domestic affairs. These changes would allow Bush, whenever he thinks it necessary, to institute martial law–under which the military takes direct control over civilian administration.

Sec. 1042 of the Act, “Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies,” effectively overturns what is known as posse comitatus. The Posse Comitatus Act is a law, passed in 1878, that prohibits the use of the regular military within the U.S. borders. The original passage of the Posse Comitatus Act was a very reactionary move that sealed the betrayal of Black people after the Civil War and brought the period of Reconstruction to an end. It decreed that federal troops could no longer be used inside the former Confederate states to enforce the new legal rights of Black people. Black people were turned over to the armed police and Klansmen serving the southern plantation owners, and the long period of Jim Crow began.

During the 20th century, posse comitatus objectively started to play a new role within the bourgeois democratic framework: as a legal barrier to the direct influence of the powerful military establishment and the armed forces over domestic U.S. society. It served to some degree as an obstacle against military coups and presidents seizing military control over the country. (However, National Guard troops have been legally available to the ruling class for use inside the U.S., and there have been other loopholes to the prohibition of the use of armed forces domestically, as in the mobilization of Marine troops during the 1992 L.A. Rebellion.)

So the changes to posse comitatus signed into law by Bush are extremely significant and ominous. Bush has modified the main exemptions to posse comitatus that up to now have been primarily defined by the Insurrection Act of 1807. Previously the president could call out the army in the United States only in cases of insurrection or conditions where “rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States in any State or Territory by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings.” Under the new law the president can use the military in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, a terrorist attack or “other condition in which the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to the extent that state officials cannot maintain public order.”

The new law requires the President to notify Congress “as soon as practicable after the determination and every 14 days thereafter during the duration of the exercise of the authority.” However Bush, as he has often done during his presidency, modified this requirement in his signing statement, which declared, “The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the President’s constitutional authority to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, the national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive.” In other words, Bush claims that he does not even need to inform Congress that martial law has been declared!

Link 

More World Bank & Roving Bugs

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So it has come to my attention that since the discussion of roving bugs first surfaced on the internet, many people have blogged about it.

So many people have mentioned this issue in fact that it has generated a sort of hysteria about the issue.  The generation of such hysteria has obviously spurred a coalition of naysayers.  I just wanted to reaffirm to people that the technology is obviously possible.  Some articles go as far as to claim that the roving bug could be activated even when the phone was switched off.  That might be a little hyperbolic.

Anyway, this guy disagrees.  Here is a little more about that roving bug bust.

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The article from which this graph originates is very interesting. So is this.
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The other thing is that I was having a conversation with my dad the other day and he made a good anecdotal point about why free market capitalism pisses people off who live within poor market economies, I mean, besides the obvious reasons.  He pointed out what happened when a company from the UAE tried to buy American ports. It wasn’t very pretty.

I was saying in the last post that many countries blame their financial problems on the sharky nature of the world bank which can have the (purposeful or accidental) effect of destabilizing an economy, and/or supporting people financially who really don’t need to be in charge.  Argentina is one of the countries that really hates the organization.  Read and educate yourself.

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The image of the Argentinian World Bank protest originates from this article.

Telescreens and Roving Bugs

Oh sorry, I was sleeping today.  But the rest of the world wasn’t.  The earth just never ceases to get crazier.  You should definitely click all the links in this little article.

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So today we’re talking about roving bugs.  If you don’t know what that is, click the link obviously.  Basically, since they invented ‘conversations’ people have been hiding behind huge stones, burying themselves in haystacks, and hiding behind curtains to figure out what other people are saying in confidence to their cleaning ladies, shepherds, friends, queens or what have you.

Technologically, one of the first examples of eavesdropping on somebody was the dictograph invented in 1912 by KM Turner.

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The dictograph, Mr. Fox says, has in the last six months revolutionized criminal prevention. He writes:

“In walls, under sofa and chair, in chandelier, behind a desk, beside a window, it has hidden – the unseen listener to secret conversations. The secrets of prison cells have been tapped, hotel rooms and offices have given up incriminating conversation. To representatives of the law, it has proclaimed loudly the whispered words of cunning malefactors. It has figured sensationally in the undoing of dynamiters, legislative bribetakers, grafters high and crooks low, across the continent. It eavesdropped in McManigal’s cell in the Columbus, Ohio, bribery case, in the Lorimer case, in the office of the Iron Workers’ Union at Indianapolis, in Gary, Ind., in – who knows? always listening where we know not, it promises more and more sensational disclosures, more confessions – an ‘automatic third degree.’”

Basically, since then, the government has come out with all types of ways to tap your phone that you may have never heard of.  Their newest trick is the roving bug.  The way cell phones work is by sending out signals to towers.  To make a long story short, the towers communicate with eachother.  By figuring out what cell phone towers that your phone is communicating with somebody with proper access can determine your whereabouts through triangulation of signal.

Nowadays phones have GPS etc in them.  While this is all good, and especially effective for emergency services, it does raise Orwelian questions.  In the face of the whole National ID thing, do you really want to be always locatable just because of the technology?

In the past it may have been harder for authorities to tap into phones, given that habeas corpus used to exist in some sense.  However, as we know, such civil protection is being overrided in favor of tougher systems in order to guard against any possible security threath.

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The technique is called a “roving bug,” and was approved by top U.S. Department of Justice officials for use against members of a New York organized crime family who were wary of conventional surveillance techniques such as tailing a suspect or wiretapping him.

THE ROVING BUG, is actually not like a traditional bug at all.  Whereas a traditional tap would require the tap-ee to engage in a conversation, the roving bug turns your cell phone into the actual mechanism of the tap.  Yes, that means that even when you aren’t talking on your cell phone, a government agent with proper system access  could turn your phone into a live receiver.  I don’t know what you think, but that ish is crazy!

Not only is it super stealth, but it actually eliminates the need for the government to plant an actual physical bug.  Given that everyone these days has a cell phone, that’s a frightening proposition.  Sitting here staring at my MacBook, I start to wonder who’s watching me.

No Confidence

Congressman Adam Schiff

So there seems to be at least a couple sane people in the House of Representatives. Democrat Adam Schiff and Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz are co-sponsoring a motion that hit the floor on Monday that basiclly is calling for vote of no confidence against the Attorney General. I figured I should let you all know about it since yesterday we posted on Gonzales’ pinky-and-the-brain plan for file sharing.

“We do not believe that his continued tenure in the Department of Justice is in the best interests of that Department, and the country cannot wait and drift for another one and half years of his leadership at the helm.”

-Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)

All this comes on the heels of the blatantly illegal but un-tended fire that resulted from Gonzales’ dispatching of 8 US attorneys for voting against Republican party value-lines.

Rep. Wasserman Schultz compared Gonzales’ behavior with President Richard Nixon’s ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ in order to accuse Gonzales of not being trustworthy in carrying out the law.

“Attorney General Richardson resigned in protest because he refused to engage in acts that he believed were either unconstitutional or illegal, and I honestly don’t have the confidence that if the President asked Attorney General Gonzales to do something in either one of those categories, that he would make that same decision,” she said. “I think he would just carry out instructions, and that is totally inappropriate, unacceptable, and un-American.”

Although it will probably be ignored, it’s something that you should know is going on given the amount of smoke and mirrors and the cavalier attitudes of administrations past and present of breaking the law and not caring.

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The quotes cited are all from this article via The Raw Story. Go read it.

Alberto Gonzales and Thought Crime

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Well, as you all know, for a short while politricks.mnp died of pure apathy, but luckily for you out there in the general population, we’re back. At issue today, the totally Minority Report-ish articles that have been going around the net about the Attorney General’s new plan to neutralize internet piracy. Some of the points under his proposal include:

* Criminalize “attempting” to infringe copyright. Federal law currently punishes not-for-profit copyright infringement with between 1 and 10 years in prison, but there has to be actual infringement that takes place. The IPPA would eliminate that requirement. (The Justice Department’s summary of the legislation says: “It is a general tenet of the criminal law that those who attempt to commit a crime but do not complete it are as morally culpable as those who succeed in doing so.”)

* Create a new crime of life imprisonment for using pirated software. Anyone using counterfeit products who “recklessly causes or attempts to cause death” can be imprisoned for life. During a conference call, Justice Department officials gave the example of a hospital using pirated software instead of paying for it.

* Permit more wiretaps for piracy investigations. Wiretaps would be authorized for investigations of Americans who are “attempting” to infringe copyrights.

* Allow computers to be seized more readily. Specifically, property such as a PC “intended to be used in any manner” to commit a copyright crime would be subject to forfeiture, including civil asset forfeiture. Civil asset forfeiture has become popular among police agencies in drug cases as a way to gain additional revenue, and it is problematic and controversial.

* Increase penalties for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anticircumvention regulations. Criminal violations are currently punished by jail times of up to 10 years and fines of up to $1 million. The IPPA would add forfeiture penalties.

* Add penalties for “intended” copyright crimes. Certain copyright crimes currently require someone to commit the “distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180-day period of at least 10 copies” valued at more than $2,500. The IPPA would insert a new prohibition: actions that were “intended to consist of” distribution.

* Require Homeland Security to alert the Recording Industry Association of America. That would happen when CDs with “unauthorized fixations of the sounds, or sounds and images, of a live musical performance” are attempted to be imported. Neither the Motion Picture Association of America nor the Business Software Alliance (nor any other copyright holder, such as photographers, playwrights or news organizations, for that matter) would qualify for this kind of special treatment.

From CNET (News.Com) [Check out their podcast on the issue]

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The referenced article also highlights that, in terms of Hollywood, the Democrats seem to be more closely allied to Hollywood than the Republicans. It would be interesting to see how such a bill would be handled in congress.

I, for one, am not comfortable with all that “attempted” language. Furthermore it seems like this may be just some type of diversion on the part of Gonzales to take attention away from his recent lawyer firing scandals. Since the mainstream media drops any scandal that doesn’t payout in 2 weeks like a horse at a glue factory it seems like only the bloggers are all over it. The administration seems to be pointing its big hairy finger right back at the internet.

While it’s common sense that a democracy (er.. of capitalistic nature) needs intellectual property protections, I’m still not sure how far our government should go to be protecting and industry with antiquated business models. For a bunch of old fogeys who still can’t make money off the internet for some unbeknownst reason (Apple seems to be doing well despite the stock scare) the RIAA cats still seem to be doing well for themselves. By “how far” I mean why should homeland security be involved in fighting piracy? I thought they were supposed to be securing the homeland against a perceived threat.

Go Read and Form Your Own Opinion

F.B.I. Is Warned Over Its Misuse of Data Collection

WASHINGTON, March 20 — House Republicans joined Democrats on Tuesday in warning the F.B.I. that it could lose the power to demand that companies turn over customers’ telephone, e-mail and financial records if it did not swiftly correct abuses in the use of national security letters, the investigative tool that allows the bureau to make such demands without a judge’s approval.

The warnings came at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee into a recent report by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Glenn A. Fine. The report found that the F.B.I. had repeatedly violated the rules governing the letters, sometimes by invoking emergency procedures to exercise them when there was no emergency, and had bungled record keeping so badly that the number of letters exercised was often understated when the bureau reported on them to Congress.

“I just want to convey to you how upset many of us are who have defended this program and have believed it is necessary to the protection of our country,” Representative Dan Lungren, Republican of California, told Valerie E. Caproni, the bureau’s general counsel.

[NYTimes]

Richardson to sign bill, legalize medical marijuana

SANTA FE, N.M. – Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, poised to sign a bill making New Mexico the 12th state to legalize medical marijuana, said Thursday he realizes his action could become an issue in the presidential race.

“So what if it’s risky? It’s the right thing to do,” said Richardson, one of the candidates in the crowded 2008 field. “What we’re talking about is 160 people in deep pain. It only affects them.”

The legislation would create a program under which some patients — with a doctor’s recommendation — could use marijuana provided by the state health department. Lawmakers approved the bill Wednesday. The governor is expected to sign it in the next few weeks.

Richardson has supported the proposal since he first ran in 2002. But he pushed especially hard for it this year, leaning on some Democrats to change their votes after the bill initially failed.

“Give him credit. It’s not something you do because you’re going to garner great political support for it. It is a bit controversial,” said Thomas Mann, a political analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington. By the same token, Mann says, it is not likely to hurt him in the Democratic contests.

[Yahoo!/AP]

‘Yahoo Betrayed My Husband’

Five years later, Yu, 55, sits in the dining room of a small house in Fairfax and weeps softly. She is a slight woman — 100 pounds and barely 5 feet tall in slippers. Her eyes betray her exhaustion; but she is determined, too. She carries a thick stack of notes with her, and she has scrawled more on her left hand.

“Yahoo betrayed my husband and deprived him of freedom,” Yu says through a translator, her voice trembling. “Yahoo must learn its lesson.”

Yu’s husband is now in Beijing Prison No. 2, serving a 10-year sentence for inciting subversion with his pro-democracy internet writings. According to the written court verdict, the Chinese government convicted Wang, in part, on evidence provided by Yahoo.

After a year of preparation, Yu flew into Washington, D.C., last week for one purpose: to find a lawyer and sue the internet giant. She told her story to Wired News in the Virginia headquarters of The China Information Center, a nonprofit advocacy group headed by former dissident Harry Wu, who helped arrange Yu’s travel to the United States.

Now that she’s here, Yu says she’s not leaving until she has held Yahoo accountable.

[WIRED]

Google To Anonymize Data

Google is reversing a long-standing policy to retain all the data on its users indefinitely, and by the end of the year will begin removing identifying data from its search logs after 18 months to two years, depending on the country the servers are located in.

Currently, Google indefinitely retains detailed server logs on its search engine users, including user’s IP addresses – which can identify a user’s computer, the query, any result that is clicked on, their browser and operating system, among other details. Even if a user never signs up for a Google account, those searches are all tied together through a cookie placed on the user’s computer, which currently expires in 2038.

The new policy will be global, but there will be variances by country, especially in Europe where a data retention rule passed in 2005 requires ISPs and phone companies to keep data from six months to two years. After that time period, Google will “anonymize” the search data from web and image searches by dropping either the second half or last quarter of I.P. addresses, thus turning an address such as 127.0.34.35 into 127.0 or 127.0.34. The goal is to make it technically impossible to retroactively tie a query back to a computer, unless the query included identifying information.

[WIRED]

US Rep Defends Mixtapes and Mashups on Floor of Congress

Pennsylvania’s Democratic Representative Mike Doyle made a moving statement on the congressional floor last week in defense of music mashups and mix tapes.  Doyle discussed remix artist Girl Talk, arrested mix tape maker DJ Drama and even Paul McCartney’s admission that he used a bass line right out of a Chuck Berry song.  The statement was made as part of the very important (and frightening) congressional debates about the future of radio. 

Video and more at the link below:
[SplashCast]